– ‘The Magic Of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘A Clean Canvas’ blogtour, organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.
To promote Elizabeth Mundy her book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.
About the Author :
Elizabeth Mundy’s grandmother was a Hungarian immigrant to America who raised five children on a chicken farm in Indiana. An English Literature graduate from Edinburgh University, Elizabeth is a marketing director for an investment firm and lives in London with her messy husband and two young children. A Clean Canvas is the second book in the Lena Szarka mystery series about a Hungarian cleaner who turns detective.
Crime always leaves a stain …
Lena Szarka, a Hungarian cleaner, dusts off her detective skills when a masterpiece is stolen from a gallery she cleans with her cousin Sarika. When Sarika goes missing too, accusations start to fly.
Convinced her cousin is innocent, Lena sweeps her way through the secrets of the London art scene. But with the evidence against Sarika mounting and the police on her trail, Lena needs to track down the missing painting if she is to clear her cousin.
Embroiling herself in the sketchy world of thwarted talents, unpaid debts and elegant fraudsters, Lena finds that there’s more to this gallery than meets the eye.
This is an extract from A CLEAN CANVAS, the second book in the Lena Szarka mystery series about a Hungarian cleaner who turns detective. A painting has been stolen from a gallery Lena cleans with her cousin Sarika. Now that Sarika is missing too, accusations are starting to fly. In this scene, Lena is on an awkward date with her co-investigator, PC Cartwright, and they discover that Sarika’s flatmate Kat has a dirty secret of her own.
In general Lena wasn’t a big fan of picnics. The prickle of grass on her legs; ants going places on her body where they had no business; the constant worry about knocking over her plastic cup of warm white wine on the uneven grassy surface. Not her idea of a great lunch. Certainly not when there were perfectly good cafés with steady tables, clean plates and useful knives and forks.
But Cartwright looked so pleased with the surprise he’d planned for her. His face lit up when she found him, as promised, on the grass near the lake in Clissold Park. He’d spread out a picnic blanket, had a fancy-looking basket full of sun-heated food and he’d donned a loose pair of shorts for the occasion. ‘Your table awaits,’ he said, handing her a plastic cup of something warm and fizzy.
Lena smiled back at him and sat awkwardly on the blanket, trying not to flash her knickers at him in the process. She tried to balance her plastic cup on the grass, but soon gave up and clutched it in her hot hand, accepting a paper plate with a piece of quiche, smoked salmon and half an avocado with the other. ‘This is lovely,’ she lied, balancing the plate on her lap and taking a deep swig from her cup.
‘Food tastes so much better outdoors,’ said Cartwright, still smiling ear to ear. He stretched out his bare legs along the blanket, knocking over a small tub of bulbous olives.
Lena couldn’t help but stare at his legs. She’d not seen them before; they were always concealed under trousers. She almost gasped at their perfection. Muscular, tanned, and covered in soft blond hairs that glistened like gold in the sunlight. If police uniform were shorts she’d be tempted to commit a crime herself, just to lure Cartwright to her. She popped an olive in her mouth to stop herself reaching out to stroke his legs with her hands. Lena subtly spat the pip into her hand and disposed of it in the grass nearby. Perhaps one day an olive tree would grow there. A homage to Cartwright’s legs.
‘It wasn’t easy, but I’ve found out what you wanted to know,’ said Cartwright. ‘About Kat.’
Lena tore her eyes from his legs and looked up. ‘You have her internet history? Has she tried to sell the painting?’
‘No, I couldn’t get into that without compromising myself,’ said Cartwright. ‘I need to respect people’s right to privacy.’
Lena almost choked on her hummus. People who stole and tried to incriminate her family had no rights as far as she was concerned.
Cartwright bit into his quiche, oblivious to her feelings. ‘But I think you’ll like what I’ve discovered from my colleagues in vice,’ he said. ‘They’d been keeping an eye on an unsavoury little website and were watching Kat – for professional reasons, of course. It’s all legal at the moment, but they think it could be a nursery for a fully-fledged prostitution ring. I downloaded something for you on my personal computer and brought it with me,’ he said, reaching to pull his laptop from his briefcase, which he’d been keeping cool under the blanket. ‘I’ll be pleased to get this off my machine, but I thought you’d want to see for yourself first,’ he added nervously, booting up and peering into the screen. ‘You can’t see very well because of the glare in the park, but I’ve turned the brightness right up and I think you’ll get the idea. Just scoot into the shade of that sycamore tree.’
Lena took the proffered laptop and stared at it. The screen just looked dark. Then she heard a voice blare out. Kat’s voice. ‘Hello big boy.’ A couple nearby turned to look at her, a pram next to them covered in a blanket to protect their offspring from the sun while it napped.
‘Sorry,’ said Cartwright, hurriedly snatching the computer back. ‘Let me turn the sound down a bit. This isn’t appropriate for everyone. Not PG-rated, as they say. And it gets worse.’
Lena took the computer back, her interest thoroughly aroused. Peering into the screen, she saw Kat leer back at her, wearing a black silk teddy. She was on the phone, one of the old-fashioned ones with a coiled cable. She was wrapping the coils around her fingers and staring into the camera. All of a sudden she giggled, then her tongue spiked out of her mouth and she licked the handset. ‘You’re a naughty boy,’ she said, in a husky voice. ‘Is that what you want me to do?’
Lena slammed the laptop shut.
‘Not my cup of tea at all,’ said Cartwright, taking the computer back and putting it into his bag. ‘But it looks like that’s what she’s been up to. That’s why she was so keen to get her computer back.’
The Magic Of Wor(l)ds